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31 December 2018

Ending a Tiring Year

It's New Year's Eve and I'm feeling awfully tired.

I'm pretty sure most of that is related to a mild sugar crash from all the food I ate at my grandparents' house while the family was over there to watch Pitt play in the Sun Bowl and have dinner.  (Though the game was more enjoyable than last time in 2008, it was still a 14–13 loss.)  But since this is an annual time of reflection, I suppose it rings somewhat true to how the whole year has gone, too.

My great-grandmother fell ill in late January, resulting in a quick up-and-back trip back home to see her one last time before she ultimately passed away on 1 February at the age of 103.  Then, just as I was getting through the busy season of Carnegie Mellon's Spring Carnival in mid-April, while dealing with a nasty ear blockage (thankfully easy enough to resolve), I got word that my paternal grandmother had been taken to a hospital in Pittsburgh.

So the next couple weeks were filled with visits until she was transferred closer to her home, leaving me just enough time to deal with the end-of-year craziness at work, and to run my first primary election as a Judge of Elections on 15 May.  While we knew her time was ultimately short, there were moments when it looked as though she might live a while longer.  And so, just as we entered a period where we were breathing a bit easier, and I'd set aside some time to help overcome executive dysfunction and tackle some of those self-improvements from last year, on 15 June, she passed away peacefully in her sleep.  I was asked to play some of my music at the funeral which was held five days later — and thank goodness I didn't drive back home in the torrential rains that hit Pittsburgh that evening.  Before I knew it, it was Independence Day, and then it was off to Music Camp, and right into the preparatory run-up to fall semester.

I took a little time off, though, in September to recharge a bit by spending a weekend in Maryland with my friend Will from undergrad.  This, of course, ended with my return Greyhound bus running nearly four hours late and getting into town around 03:30.

Then, I was busy as usual in the fall running Alumni Band Day for PBAC in October and Demosplash in November, followed by a running much busier general election on 6 November and a whirlwind lead-up to the holidays, including having to suddenly overcome the aforementioned executive dysfunction in early December to get a bit of cleaning done ahead of a visit from the landlord.

But in the wake of that busyness, I think I set myself up for some successes ahead.  And thankfully, the holiday season has been pretty restful.  And while I've never been one for resolutions, I actually think I've ended up in a pretty good place, and am ready to build further on it.  We'll see what that means a year from now.


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27 November 2018

L’eep !

« L’eep ! » Encore, c’est le vingt-sept novembre.

Plus ça change, plus c’est pareil : Depuis presque cinq ans, j’ai été en deuil. Tu me manques tellement. Et bien que souvent caché, je suis à jamais affligé. Mais pourtant le monde continue, quoique pas tout à fait comme c’était.

Je suis reconnaissant de ta présence dans ma vie, à la fois au passé et au présent. De temps en temps, je me souviens à ton esprit et moral, et alors que je ne sache pas toujours comment m’y porte, je m’y tienne chèrement néanmoins.

Tant s’est passé, et même si je suis toujours la personne que tu as connu, je suis également changé pour le mieux ; évidemment, bien que tu ne l’aies peut-être pas su, tu as vraiment contribué à ce que cela se produise.

Et donc, je te souhaite une trentième heureuse ! Bon anniversaire, mon ami.

* * *

“L’eep!” Once again, it’s 27 November.

The more things change, the more they stay the same: For almost five years, I’ve been mourning. I miss you so much. And while it’s often hidden, I am forever grieving. Yet the world goes on, though not quite as it was.

I am grateful for your presence in my life, both in the past and in the present. Every now and then, I remember your spirit and optimism, and while I don’t always know how to carry them with me, I hold them dearly nevertheless.

So much has happened, and even though I’m still the person you knew, I’m also changed for the better; of course, though you may not have known it, you truly helped to make it happen.

And so I wish you a happy thirtieth! Happy birthday, my friend.


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14 May 2018

Teenaged Blogs for Bloggy Teens

Thirteen years ago, I was a teenager… And now, my blog is, too.

Dearest Bloggy, I've surely neglected you, but you've always been there, a faithful archive of… well, something.  Those close to me know that the first trimester of 2018 has been a fairly rough one in terms of all sorts of life stuff, and that has coincided with some increased responsibilities as well, which has kept me far too busy to write here.  A lame excuse, as ever, I know.  But I'm still proud enough of you that I'm still taking a little time to bake some bloggy cake.

And it's surely a sign of adulthood, but noticing when the people and things you love are old enough to do something is an interesting experience… Like when kids you knew as toddlers are graduating high school, when a friendship would be old enough to be in middle school, or when your mortgage is old enough to drink.

Maybe not that last one… Another sign of the times is noticing how your sense of humor, ahem, matures.  And observing the slight cringey feel of each tweet from the "Feeling Old?" bot on Twitter.

But to think: Even this blog is old enough to have its own angsty blog.  That's so meta.  And back in 2005, blogs were cool.  Everyone had one.  Now it seems more quaint than anything.

So, Bloggy, though I'm not sure what else to write you on your thirteenth birthday, I'm pretty sure an angsty teenager like you wouldn't want to hear it from me anyway.


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04 January 2018


Thirty. Three-zero. Yes, today is the trigentennial anniversary of my birth, which means I'm now 30 years old.  Three whole decades.  It's yet another big number to wrap my head around, though in this case, I've had a few years' worth of mental preparation.

After years of considering myself to be in my "mid"-twenties, I realized shortly after turning 28 that that wasn't really going to work anymore.  That one came as a bit of a shock, but made me determined not to let 30 sneak up on me.  Like I said earlier in the week about this year itself, it's something about those eights that strikes me as inherently anticipatory.  Must be why, despite having been born in 1988, I'm more of a "nineties" kid.  ;)

Anyway, I celebrated midnight quietly at home before bed, then — because my job is in IT — woke up reading about the recently-disclosed Meltdown and Spectre side-channel attack vulnerabilities with wide-reaching implications for nearly every machine in production that contains an Intel chip, before getting ready to head into work and coming to an unfortunate realization that one of Ed and Erin's cats had probably urinated on both my coat and my scarf when I'd visited last night.  So I switched to an old coat with a broken zipper, and braced for the frigid 10 °F (–12 °C) weather.

Despite the apparent panic in the broader industry, I had a calm but productive day at work, one of just eight between the holidays and the start of spring classes at Carnegie Mellon, so I've got to make them all count.  Looped back home afterwards, picked up the soiled coat, and brought it back to my friends' place where they graciously made quick work of "going through the process" to properly clean everything because this happens frequently enough that they thankfully have a process down solid.  Then a mellow dinner with them at Fuel and Fuddle.

Nothing wild and crazy today, nor last night, either, since it's been so cold.  It's 6 °F (–14 °C) now and getting down to 0 °F (–18 °C) by morning, and even a bit colder tomorrow night.  The Post-Gazette says it's the coldest stretch of weather in Pittsburgh since 1989.  I don't know by what metric, because I definitely remember colder days, but certainly it's been cold for a long while.

But I guess I've officially earned my tricenarian card.  And I can take out my now-expired vicenarian card which was issued ten years ago and put it next to my old denarian card which I'm sure I was given at some point.

Random tangent: I definitely taught myself all those words just after midnight today. And apparently rarely-used words like those have quite a few spelling variants.


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01 January 2018


Okay, real talk: The concept of twenty-eighteen is just boggling me.  It kind of has for a while, and it really is now that it's here.

As I've noted in the past, I tend to take the onset of even-numbered years more in stride and with a more generally positive outlook.  My mother often makes similar remarks at New Year's; to her, even years "just feel right".  And on an intellectual level, yeah, it makes sense.  It still manages to jive somewhat on paper, despite feeling like an astronomically big number and yet literally not being that much larger than anything else we've dealt with recently.  But really, less than a day into it, something about 2018 just feels… off.

It certainly wasn't the first day itself.  It was a perfectly reasonable holiday, prefaced by traditional New Year's Eve Nachos, and ringing in the new year with my parents at their house, although my brother was out attending a party elsewhere.  After indulging in staying up somewhat late, I slept in a bit, but not unreasonably so, spending most of the morning helping my mother take down a few Christmas decorations and gathering up all of my belongings from my extended holiday stay to prepare to return home to Pittsburgh.  And then a bunch of the extended family assembled once more for one last Christmas hoo-rah! before dispersing for the season.

But somewhere in there, I think — maybe — I've cracked the case.  At least kinda.  As it happens, part of today's hybrid holiday celebration included a cake (delicious and raspberry-filled from Wegmans) in celebration of my upcoming 30th birthday later this week.  And now that the custom of starting our years with "two"s is itself old enough to be an "adult", it all just feels a little… odd?  Even if it's even.  (Heh.)

That and, with the benefit of nearly a decade's hindsight, 2008 and 2009 were both quite formative years in my life and self-discovery at the start of my twenties.  So the similar-looking 2018 and 2019 just seem like they already have high expectations for my thirties?  It's interesting, anyway, how the numbers we grow up around leave their lasting imprints on us over time, even when they come up in different ways.  Or maybe that's just me.

Anyway, I really never go into any real detail about any of the symbolism behind my yearly New Year's doodles, and to be honest, a lot of the choices are just avoiding overt reuse of past designs.  This time, though, I knew pretty early on today that these greens would feel right.  It's a hope for a year of renewal, perhaps… forward-thinking, looking ahead.  The "eight" — as well as the "nine" to come — simply acts as melodic tension as the chords of life naturally resolve toward the next decade.

Of course, nothing about life actually resolves itself so neatly like that, and the whole symphony, broadly defined, doesn't really ever end.  As it is, I'm about to enter my fourth decade of life, and by that frame of reference I could just as easily make a similar argument about the two years just past as the two forthcoming.  Round numbers tug at our hearts and tell good stories, or something like that.

But between the onslaught of world news and politics, increased responsibilities at work, and shifting aspects of my social life, a lot of 2017 has been a near-constant struggle to stay simultaneously well-informed, personally productive, and mentally well.  The old adage, adapted for the modern era, is that you can only really have two of those three at a time, and certainly in any given month the winners and losers have varied.  I think I've been managing mostly not to neglect any one of them for too long, but it's been hard.

And so, if 2017 was a year in which I felt somewhat downtrodden and laden with various burdens of life, 2018 is a year in which I hope for some "fresh air", whatever that might mean for me in the months that lie ahead.  A year in which I'm more intentful in actively adjusting my lifestyle to suit my style and set my course.  Maybe those actually are high expectations, but at least they're truly self-imposed, and I'm actually pretty confidently in a good place for once… so let's keep going.

See?  I knew I could turn it all into a positive.


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